Dear editor: A couple of weeks ago LEO Weekly had the gall to put the image of a condom-wrapped thumb on the cover. The publication’s incessant lust for filth and inappropriate messages is tarnishing our otherwise morally-impeccable, abstinent-only community. Do the editors over there even know what putting a thumbs-up on the cover can do to the minds of kids these days? Now kids will have no idea where the condom is supposed to go. Images like that are tearing apart the fabric of traditional families and society.
No, this was not a real response to LEO’s Oct. 21 cover. But there was a surprising number of dissenting, anecdotal responses that echoed back to the LEO offices: several distribution boxes emptied into the trash, some restaurants returning or flipping the issues over and other individuals voicing complaints.
I could not be prouder of everyone involved in producing that issue for testing the puritanical boundaries of some in our community. It is our job — one in which we all take tremendous pride — to push the limits of comfort; drag the sensible through the weeds of the senseless; and when necessary and whenever possible, shove the stones of progress. I also appreciate individual objections or concerns when voiced respectfully.
Yet, I was still surprised by the stories of some who were offended. (I should say, I presume the reactions were out of offense to the image, and not another reason.) For one thing, the image of a thumb with a condom on it was one of the more benign, inoffensive covers that we discussed. Second, the image and story underscored the desperate need for exposing age-appropriate kids to fundamental sex education — versus abstinence only, or shielding them from anything implying that sex is a part of human existence.
One of our distributors reported that several of the boxes around Broadway were emptied and the issues trashed. The perpetrator of this self-righteous censorship mission is no better than centuries of their book-burning predecessors. And like all those who try to impede the natural progress of knowledge, information and culture, they will fail; we will win.
Furthermore, this does not begin to address the hypocrisy of a society that, on the one hand, is averse to the very existence of sex (even safe sex education), while, on the other hand, brazenly consumes, supports and perpetuates the sexualization of pop culture. If you are truly offended by the image on LEO’s cover, to be intellectually consistent, you must be offended every time you check out at the grocery store or turn on the television.
And this aversion to the very image of a condom may be reflected in the state’s appalling teen birth rate (44th nationally in 2013).
Again, I respect moral or religious objections, and respectful dissent. However, I do not respect or appreciate book burners and efforts to censor the media. So to that individual or those individuals who expressed their disapproval of our condom-wrapped, thumbs-up cover, here is another condom-wrapped finger for you.
The other astounding story surrounding this issue involves the administrative offices of Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS).
As the article clearly explains, JCPS must leave sex-education curriculum up to each individual school’s school-based decision making councils. So, naturally, while doing research, we directly emailed principals at 25 JCPS and private high schools requesting information about their sex education classes. We received responses from three schools — all private — and only one response from JCPS … from their administrative offices: a response too conspicuous for coincidence.
While I had a conversation with someone in the JCPS administrative offices that was off the record, what I can say from the preceding email correspondence is that this person refused to provide any information or assistance without first knowing the name of the school and teacher whom I had already interviewed. (Ultimately, that person provided a curriculum map for health at JCPS.) While I don’t know JCPS’s official policy for working with the media, this is an unacceptable practice for a public institution. The information LEO requested and received, as well as the information we never received, should be available, uninhibited, for everyone in the community, as well as media.
JCPS cannot arbitrarily hold hostage information from the public regarding school curricula, textbooks, or course descriptions.
The amazing resonance of this story is how truly it echoes of the concerns and complaints raised by the recently resigned JCPS Chief Academic Officer, Drew Hensley. In his published resignation letter, he described an organization that was more concerned with, and hypersensitive to, public perception than the actual business of improving education in Jefferson County. He wrote, “It has been a time of marginalized voices, eroded credibility, and a great deal of time devoted less to developing quality schools for children and more about managing perceptions for adults.”
I was further dismayed to hear someone from the JCPS offices called a teacher I had interviewed. I do not know the nature of the call or what was discussed. That said, JCPS is walking extremely close to a totalitarian rule, where they micromanage the public relations of the whole empire to avoid dissent.